PORTLAND (AP) – The Maine Turnpike carried a record number of vehicles in 2007, but the growth was minuscule and the increase in truck traffic outpaced the growth in cars.

Turnpike officials said that an estimated 63.4 million vehicles will drive on the state’s busiest road during the year.

That’s about 200,000 vehicles more than in 2006, a small increase – just 0.3 percent – that can be attributed in part to high gasoline prices.

The number of commercial trucks using the toll highway continued to grow in 2007, reflecting a trend begun earlier this decade of an increase in truck traffic and a decline in the number of passenger cars.

Trucks accounted for about 12 percent of turnpike traffic, up from 11 percent last year.

And because trucks pay more than cars to use the road, increased truck usage has helped boost revenues, said Paul Violette, executive director of the Maine Turnpike Authority. Toll collections for 2007 are expected to be $78.8 million, up 1.8 percent from the $77.4 million in tolls in 2006.

“In the ’80s and ’90s, car traffic grew more than truck traffic,” Violette said. “That has been turned on its head in this decade.”

The Maine Turnpike first opened in 1947, when a 45-mile section opened between Kittery and Portland. The highway now runs 109 miles from Kittery to Augusta.

The turnpike first broke the 10 million vehicle count in 1971, and the 20 million mark in 1984. It broke the 60 million vehicle milestone in 2003.

Violette said the traffic growth on the turnpike has moderated over the years.

In the 1980s, traffic was growing at more than 5 percent a year, he said. But in the 1990s, vehicle counts were increasing at an average of 1.5 percent to 2 percent annually. Since 2000, he added, the number of cars and trucks on the highway has risen about 1.25 percent to 1.75 percent a year.


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